Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a book that can take you to another world., 18 July 2012
This review is from: Snake Ropes (Hardcover)
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It can take you to a wild island, far from the Scottish coast. It is a world apart, where people live as people in isolated communities have for many centuries. They farm, they fished, and they make things that they might trade with passing travellers.

Those travellers came often, `tall men in black coats' from the mainland, and yet the islanders never left. I wouldn't want to leave, even though I might be a little scared if I stayed. Jess Richards has created a wonderful world; real, alive, magical and strange.
It is the stories of two young women that bring it to life.

Mary was born into an island family, but her family is shrinking. First her mother was lost to her, and then Barney, her beloved infant brother. She knew he was still there, she heard his voice in the world around her, but she couldn't see him. What secrets was her father keeping from her? Had the tall men taken him? Or was he in the mysterious Thrashing House, a building every bit as sinister as its name suggests?

Morgan was born on the mainland, but her parents ran away from something, and they fled to the island. They built a fortress and they raised their children behind barricades. Morgan, and her younger twin sisters could see out, but they couldn't get out. What was her family doing on the island? What might there be outside the barricades?

Both were looking for answers, and their two stories are told in two voices. They work together and balance each other beautifully.

I was wonderfully torn, by the writing and the storytelling. I wanted to linger. To luxuriate in beautiful prose, as light as air, rich with wonderful images, wrapped around so many intriguing ideas. But I also wanted to keep turning the pages, I wanted to keep hearing those two wonderful voices, and I wanted to uncover those secrets, answer those questions every bit as much as Mary and Morgan.

The stories flowed perfectly. The twist, when it came, was striking. And the book as whole is quite extraordinary.

There is magic - a child's toy speaks, an embroidered bird takes flight, a key has a mind of its own - and it illuminates serious themes - pain and healing, the roles women play, the consequences of keeping secrets - so very, very effectively. You could just read a wonderful inventive story, or you could stop and ponder the many things it says so very eloquently as well.

I can see the influences - Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood are, quite rightly named - but I can also see that Jess Richards has absorbed them and then moved on to create something of her own that is quite unique.
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